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Expecting More Cases With Movement of Returnees, Curfew to Continue Till May 31: HP Govt

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on May 17, 2020, officially announced the extension of the lockdown till May 31.

The announcement came after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) issued an order, on May 18, under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, for extension of the lockdown till May 31, 2020. The State has decided the curfew would remain in effect as it is. 

The Government said as the number of COVID-19 cases has been continuously rising, the circumstances require restrictions through curfew.

The Government also attributed the cause of a surge in COVID-19 positive cases to the return of over 1.5 lakh people who were stranded in other States. Over 60, 000 more are have applied for passes and would be returning to the State in the upcoming days.

The Government has urged the people returning from other States to behave as responsible citizens and follow home-quarantine strictly for the sake of the people of the State.

Currently, the number of active cases in Himachal has risen to 80, out of which half of the cases have appeared within the last two weeks owing to State’s Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards taking sufficient measures and well-thought strategy for management of the mass movement of people into the State.

The tally of active cases is 32 as one of the patients in Kangra’s Jamanabad recovered and tested negative for COVID-19. The tally for COVID-19 deaths has also risen to three as two deaths were reported within the last two weeks. The Health Department statistics say that a total of 17417 persons have been tested in the State till May 17 and 21343 people were under surveillance.

On May 17, the State reported two more positive cases. Both cases were reported from Hamirpur district’s Naduan area.

In the first case, a 59-year-old, who had returned from Mumbai in a taxi with five others, tested positive. He hails from gram panchayat Kardi village.

The second person who tested positive belongs to Tayongli village. He had returned from Mumbai in a taxi as well which he shared with two others.  

Both cases were transferred to Bhota COVID hospital, an official of the Health Department confirmed. The Deputy Commissioner, Hamirpur, Harikesh Meena, has ordered sealing the areas from where the cases were reported.

The salient features of the new guidelines are as follows:

States to decide various Zones

Under the new guidelines, States and Union Territories (UTs) will now delineate Red, Green and Orange zones taking into consideration the parameters shared by the Health Ministry. The zones can be a district, or a municipal corporation/ municipality or even smaller administrative units such as sub-divisions, etc, as decided by States and UTs.

Within the red and orange zones, containment and buffer zones will be demarcated by the local authorities, after taking into consideration the Health Ministry guidelines. 

Within the containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed. Strict perimeter control would be maintained, and no movement of persons would be allowed, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining the supply of essential goods and services.  Buffer zones are areas adjoining each containment zone, where new cases are more likely to appear.  In the buffer zones, more caution needs to be exercised.

Activities Prohibited throughout the Country

A limited number of activities will continue to remain prohibited throughout the country.  These include:

  • all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA;
  • metro rail services;
  • running of schools, colleges, educational and training/coaching institutions;
  • hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services, except for the running of canteens in bus depots, railway stations and airports;
  • places of large public gatherings such as cinemas, shopping malls, gymnasiums entertainment parks, etc.;
  • social, political, cultural and similar gatherings and other large congregations; and, access to religious places/places of worship for the public.  

However, online/ distance learning would be permitted and encouraged; and, restaurants will be allowed to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.

Opening up of Sports Activities

Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open only for sports activities.  However, spectators will not be allowed in these complexes.

Activities permitted with restrictions

To facilitate the movement of persons, various modes of transport have already been opened up.  Movement of individuals by trains has been permitted earlier by MHA through an order dated 11.05.2020.   Further, evacuation of foreign nationals from India, the return of stranded Indian nationals from abroad, sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, and intra-State and inter-State movement of stranded persons by bus and train, will continue to be allowed.

Inter-State movement of vehicles and buses has also been allowed with mutual consent of the concerned States/ UTs.  Intra-State movement of vehicles and buses can be decided by the States and UTs. 

National Directives for COVID-19 management

The guidelines specify the National Directives for COVID-19 management, which would apply to public places and workplaces. 

Under these guidelines, wearing of face covers is compulsory; spitting will be punishable with fine as may be prescribed in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations by the State/ UT local authority; and social distancing is to be followed by all persons in public places and during transport.  Marriage-related gathering should not have more than 50 guests.  For funerals/ last rites, the maximum number of persons allowed has been kept at 20.  Consumption of liquor, paan, gutkha and tobacco etc., is not allowed in public places. 

The National Directives also stipulate additional requirements for workplaces.  The practice of work from home (WfH) should be followed to the extent possible, and staggering of work hours should be adopted in respect of all offices and other establishments.  There should be provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas; and all workplaces and other sensitive locations are to be sanitized regularly.  In workplaces, social distancing would also need to be ensured through adequate distance between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering the lunch break of staff and so on. 

Stipulations regarding Shops and Markets

Local authorities should ensure that shops and markets open with staggered timings, to ensure social distancing.   All shops should also have to ensure six feet distance (2 gaz ki doori) among customers and also not allow more than 5 persons at one time.

Night Curfew

Night Curfew will continue to remain in force on the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, between 7 pm and 7 am.

Protection for Vulnerable Persons

Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, should stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

All activities to be Permitted other than the limited number of those that are prohibited or restricted

All other activities will be permitted except those which are specifically prohibited under these guidelines. However, in containment zones, only essential activities would be allowed, as mentioned earlier.

States to decide on activities within various Zones

States/ UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain other activities in the various zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

Use of Aarogya Setu

Employers on best effort basis should ensure that Aarogya Setu mobile application is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones. 

District authorities have been asked to advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app. State/ UT Governments have been asked continue to strictly enforce the lockdown guidelines and they shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in any manner.

 

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Mandi Hooch Case: HP Police Claim Bursting Large-Scale Illicit Liquor Trade, Nabs Kingpin

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Mandi-Mandi hooch case has brought shocking facts to light. An organized illicit liquor trade flourished in a village of Hamirpur district right under the nose of the Excise and Taxation Department and the police. It wasn’t a minor business but had inter-state links too. Named ‘Rainbow Café, a factory was operating in a building in a village of the district.

According to the initial police investigation, it was believed the deaths were caused by either improper mixing of the ingredients, or because a part of the spirit procured for the production of liquor may be impure and contained methyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol.

It raises another crucial question; can such an organized, large scale illicit business flourish without political patronage? 

Shaken by the death of seven persons due to consumption of spurious liquor in the Salapar area of Sundernagar Tehsil, the State Police formed a Special Investigating Team to investigate the case. According to the police, as the scope of the investigation had expanded, the state police included Arjit Sen (SP Una), Mohit Chawla (SP Baddi), Arvind Digvijay Negi, ASP Kangra and Yogesh Rolta (SDPO Parwanoo) in the SIT.

The police raided different places in different districts, collected evidence and seized a large amount of incriminating material.

The police had nabbed four persons in this connection. On Saturday, the Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, held a press conference and claimed to have busted the illicit liquor business by arresting the prime suspect who was identified as Narender alias Kalu – a resident of village Maloh in the district. He was on the run following the deaths.

During the questioning, Kalu revealed that the main supplier of this illicit liquor consignment was one Gaurav Manhas alias Goru of Palampur. A police team traced his location and apprehended him from a hotel in Zirkpur on Friday.

On being questioned by the SIT, it was found that Goru belonged to the Panchrukhi area of Kangra. According to the police investigation, Goru was running an illicit bottling unit at Hamirpur in collusion with Praveen Thakur. It was also revealed that the raw material for production and packaging was received from other persons belonging to different states.

One Sagar Saini, who belonged to Delhi, supplied the spirit drums and AK Tripathi, who hailed from Samba, Jammu and Kashmir, provided the formula, the police said.

Further, it was revealed that the bottling unit in Hamirpur was run by two persons who belonged to Uttar Pradesh. The duo was responsible for mixing ingredients for the manufacture of liquor. Empty bottles were procured from ‘kabaddi’ in Hamirpur and bottles, caps, boxes and cartons were supplied from Parwanoo. VRV Santra stickers were created by a graphic designer.

Following Seizures Were Made from Hamirpur

1. More than 6000 bottles filled with illicit liquor labelled as “VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”,
2. five plastic tanks (300 Its each),
3. seven boxes containing bottle caps marked “VRV foods Ltd.”,
4. nine plastic drums (50. Its each),
5. one carton containing 136 strips of labels marked “Santra, VRV Fools Pvt. Ltd.”
6. 124 sheets containing more than 2500 holograms,
7. 18 plastic tag rolls marked VRV Foods,
8. one carton containing four bottles (500 ml each)
9. one jerry cans (5 Its) containing flavour,
10. three aluminium katchhhi, two bottle sealing machines,
11. one plastic jerry can filled with coloring material for the illicit liquor,
12. 56 plastic bags filled with more than 2500 empty bottles,
13. more than 2000 empty cartons marked “VRV Foods Ltd”,
14. one bottle filling machine,
15. seven stamps marked with impression of Batch No. 61, 62 and 361; 33 distilled water plastic containers (20 Its each)

These items were seized from the illegal premises busted at Panyala village, Hamirpur. The premises was marked as “Rainbow Café”.

At the instance accused Goru, another bottling plant was located under Station Nalagarh which was subsequently raided by police in Baddi.

The suppliers of holograms, labels, cartons, used bottles, spirit, bottles caps and material for the illicit production have been identified and apprehended during searches in the neighbouring districts Kangra, Solan, Hamirpur.

According to the SIT investigation, the illicit liquor factory was operating in Hamirpur District and raw materials were procured from both within and outside the State. The police said that Gaurav Manhas appears to be the kingpin of the illegal trade. Gaurav, with the assistance of Praveen, Pushpender and Sunny from UP, was running this illegal bottling plant at Hamirpur building owned by Praveen.

In addition, the DGP informed, Manu and Gagan were his partners in the bottling plant busted under the jurisdiction of Police Station Nalagarh. Gaurav has a strong network of distributors and supply chains for raw materials and finished liquor. The racket included the following major partners:

1. Gaurav Manhas alias Goru (kingpin),
2. Praveen (owner of the building used as an illegal bottling plant)
3. Pushpender and Sunny (workers in the plant)
4. Manu and Gagan (prime suspects in Nalagarh case)

The DGP said that further investigation is underway and a clearer picture will emerge after the collection of evidence and interrogation of all accused.

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Adi Badri Dam in Himachal Pradesh to be Constructed for Rs. 215.35 crores, MoU Signed

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Shimla-Adi Badri Dam in Himachal Pradesh would be constructed near the Adi Badri area of Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana at Panchkula on 77 acres. Rs 215.35 crores would be spent on the rejuvenation of the Saraswati River. This is what an MoU signed by the Himachal Pradesh and Haryana Government proposes.

The HP Government claimed that Himachal Pradesh would be benefited from the project as 3.92-hectare metre water per annum would be earmarked for the state for drinking water requirement and 57.96-hectare metre for irrigation water demand of the project affected habitations.

The entire funding of the Project would be arranged by the Haryana Government. Both the Governments would be free to prepare the Tourism Projects as well as any other infrastructure facilities from their own resources, the state government said.

According to the HP Government, only 21 families of the State would be displaced and they would be properly rehabilitated. The cost of rehabilitation package for oustees and environmental protection package in accordance with prevalent policies of Himachal Pradesh as well as any other prevalent laws or any other unforeseen cost/ expenditure in this regard related to Adi Badri Dam in future would be borne by the Government of Haryana and no liability on this account would be passed on to Himachal Pradesh

The state government also claimed that on completion of this Project, River Saraswati would again come alive. Out of the total proposed area, 31.16-hectare land falls in Himachal which include 0.67-hectare private land and 30.49-hectare forest land. The Dam would get 224-hectare metre water from the Somb River of Himachal Pradesh that falls in Yamuna near Adi Badri in Yamunanagar district. The HPPCL would be executing agency for the construction of Adi Badri Dam and its related infrastructure. 

The Haryana state government said that Adi Badri Dam Construction Monitoring Committee has been constituted for planning, supervising and monitoring of Adi Badri Dam works which comprise of Additional Chief Secretary Irrigation Haryana, Secretary Jal Shakti Vibhag Himachal Pradesh, Engineer-in-Chiefs and other representatives of both States.

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Mandi Hooch Case: Death Toll Rises to 7 as 2 More Die, 4 Arrested

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Mandi-The death toll in the hooch tragedy in Sundernagar, Mandi district, has risen to seven after two more persons died on Thursday. One of the patients died at Lal Bahadur Shashtri Government Medical College and Hospital (LBSGMC), Nerchowk, while the other died at his home. Further, three more persons have been admitted to LBSGMC. One of the patients was referred to PGI, Chandigarh in a serious condition.

The district administration has now taken to mobile public addressing system ( 10 vehicles) to identify more such victims who fell ill following consumption of spurious liquor.

On Wednesday, five people had reportedly died after consuming a spurious liquor, which was suspected to have some sort of chemical adulteration to amplify the effect. Following these deaths, the police came to action after receiving information about these deaths. The liquor was identified as  ‘Santra brand’ country liquor, manufactured by VRV Foods Limited in Kangra, and ‘999 Power Star Fine Whiskey’—made by Empire Alcobrev, Chandigarh—near Salapper in Mandi district

Shalini Agnihotri, the Superintendent of Police, Mandi, confirmed that four-person were arrested in this connection. These accused are believed to be involved in supplying spurious liquor and all belong to Sundernagar Tehsil.

Two of the accused were said to be Jagdish Chand -former Pradhan of Salapad panchayat – and Achhar Singh – son-in-law of the current Pradhan. Two others were identified as Sohan Lal and Pradeep Kumar. All four have been booked under Sections 308 (punishment for culpable homicide), 304 (culpable homicide), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.  The police said it has seized two dozen bottles of ‘Santra brand liquor from one of the accused.

These accused were produced before the court in Sundernagar that granted seven-day police custody of all four.

Caught off-guard in checking smuggling and sale of illicit liquor, the HP Government has formed a Special Investigation Team and deputed the Director General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, to personally supervise the investigation. According to the official statement issued by the HP Police, the DGP is camping at Sundernagar.

Arvind Digvijay Negi, IPS, who is a seasoned police officer and has worked in the National Investigation Agency, has also been included in the SIT, the HP Police said.

“The SIT is undertaking investigation in an earnest way which inter-alia includes visitation of the scene of the crime, raids on suspected places, seizure of incriminating material and interview of other suspected persons, “ the police said.

 The SIT headed by Inspector General (southern range) Madhu Sood, includes Shalini Agnihotri-SP Mandi, Kushal Chand Sharma – Superintendent of Police, Kangra- and Virendra Kalia- SP (Crime) CID Shimla.  

It is yet to be ascertained what chemical agents were used in the spurious liquor that caused the death of the victims.

Meanwhile, the case has taken a political colour as the opposition Congress alleged the current government of sheltering persons involved in the illicit liquor trade. Congress chief Kuldeep Rathore on Thursday raised questions over the deteriorating law-and-order situation.

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